The corporate world is arguably in the greatest period of transformation. This revolution it is in, is largely one about how it “shows up”, and the choices available in how it responds to the events of our time. With the right kind of leadership skills, this revolution is also a period of opportunity. So, who are the leaders we are talking about, and what is the “it” we are referring to in the corporate world? Who is the “we” and who will drive this period of opportunity?
Those that got us here, those who will take us there, or the masterful collaboration of both and more?
Learning from our past mistakes
As we enter a new era, new types of leaders will be required to create, build and transition to a new paradigm. Particularly those with a vested interest in there being a world to live in. Today the largest generation of young people in the history of the world is about to enter adulthood. That is 1.2 billion people who may be our future leaders. These young future leaders must be prepared in learning how to lead in a completely new way – one that builds on the lessons of the past and anticipates that what the future calls for may be very different. One might argue that historically this has always been the case as we hand down from generation to generation. However, in the face of widespread agreement that we are in unprecedented times, that argument would seem an avoidance. Perhaps this may reinforce the argument that generational wisdom is indeed something that needs harvesting more than ever. Moreover, generational wisdom is required in order to drive a stronger culture of accountability.
Learning is, in fact, the new traction, that we must embrace. Learning from “failure” is still shrouded in a level of shame and blame, and yet the tough lessons are often the ones we most remember, and in retrospect often value. We only have to look at recent events in the
White House to see what happens in a culture of blame.
From Surviving to Thriving
To reframe learning offers a rich opportunity to see it differently. To see life as laboratory and our own personal opportunity to grow so that we do have some control and influence over our outcomes, depending on how we shift our thinking. As we do this, we are able to shift from traditional approaches of “being controlled” – a top-down “survival-driven” existence, to a more systemic approach, in which we understand ourselves and our energy as part of a bigger energetic system. The extent to which this creates thriving or surviving can depend on how we act in this system.
The new approach to leadership makes that connection between human thriving and organisational thriving, based on a deeper and wider understanding of the nature of our humanity and the world we live in. When we see ourselves as part of the biodiversity, rather than controlling it, we understand our existence differently. It immediately causes one to not be “goal driven, but rather “energy” driven and the contribution one would like to make to evolution, rather than the mastery one would like to have for themselves.
Younger Generation to drive purpose led and open thinking
The openness to this wider view which is proving to drive the motivations of the younger generation brings into the corporate field, a wisdom threshold beyond which many of the previous generation of leaders have acquired in their leadership journey. In fact, until relatively recently, the opposite was true as a route to success. It was quite usual to promote suppression of the emotional or the human in corporate life, as being “weak” and risky. Career development was inclined to be more categorised, whereas now, young people are thinking about multiple possibilities rather than one. Due to the role of social media platforms, the younger generation have used this as a catalyst in order to change the way society functions. They now expect authenticity and openness of communication, driving a quest for depth, meaning and learning throughout their lives.
It is precisely this paradox of openness vs reserve, that is holding back progress in the workplace. A changing set of rules – or unspoken needs and expectations - is leaving many people in utter confusion. Feeling powerless, exposed and unsure, many people are uncertain of where to place their trust and effort, or how open to be.
Releasing the Blame Game
In order to understand the impact of the gridlocks and the belief systems that created both prosperity and sickness in the corporate world, it is important that we view a situation with awareness and compassion. To blame and shame falls short of the real challenge, which is the acceptance of how humanity has historically approached learning – in the way we educate, parent, motivate and expect of life, and how we perceive our role in the world.
Leadership - at all ages - begins with our own personal conduct, and the experience of examining and overcoming our own limiting beliefs. For young leaders, this may mean generating a wider understanding of why things were in the past, a respect for it rather than a blame of it. Also, that people generally are acting with some level of good intent and the knowledge, insights and resources they have at the time, based on their relationship to living. For older leaders, this may mean accepting the limited ways of the past and fast forwarding one’s understanding of the future. As much as we can see it today, in order to know how to respond and build back better. In short, the wisdom needs to be accessible and engaging for all.
Reimagining the Maslow Hierarchy
The new generation of leaders care more about having a sense of purpose and creating positive impact in society and the environment than older generations arguably did. Gretta Thunberg inspired 4 million people to join a global movement, Josephine Goube and Vikash Das have demonstrated that entrepreneurial innovation and humanitarianism can go hand in hand. The younger generation are great examples of a fresh new leadership the world needs.
However, they are able to do this largely because their basic needs were met. Parents, educators and the internet were able to provide them opportunities to see the world from a bigger vista, to have a secure home, to obtain an education and a sense of value and belonging that may have elevated their perspectives. Long term success will require them to understand that being a lone ranger and innovative ideas is not enough.
The Opportunity to collaborate
There is opportunity is to understand our purpose in society at a much more insightful level and to share the wisdom from both ends in order to create synthesis, thus shifting blame into gratitude. Some may react to this notion, and this is the journey of empathy and compassion that is presented today, in order to release the past and move forward. This can only be achieved by collaboration between generations of leaders. Learning how to collaborate and lead sustainable organisation’s that can harvest a wider and deeper lived experience of “growth” and prosperity, is the journey of generational collaboration that could be the very baton of transition in the corporate world. In order to create accountability, organisation’s therefore need to stop dismissing the younger generation from the conversation and instead invite them to contribute to developing the change the corporate world needs. Likewise, the younger generation need to stand up and bring their challenge in a curious way. To ask for the real story behind events, find mentoring, and recognise that they could accelerate change faster by listening and considering what is the gold in the past that still has value and strength to secure a better future.